This is a logical question. When you start a food forest, you want to give your expensive plants a good start. So many forests start with a mulch layer that is supplied externally, or go even further by adding, for example, champost, compost tea or charcoal.

How to start a food forest on poor, acid, or over-fertilised soil?

young food forest

However, if you look at nature - and food forests are based on natural principles - it is a system that always looks for balance on the way to abundance. Nature will automatically make poor soils richer and over-fertilised soils move back to a healthier nutrient balance. Nature does this in ways that we humans often barely understand, but in any case through the first pioneering plants and animals that come to the area of their own accord. And, the less you add, the harder the soil life present in the soil will work itself out.

We say that you can add some mulch at the very beginning, but it is not necessary. Everything on top and after will disrupt that natural movement rather than help your forest. Food forests start differently on every soil type, but all move towards a balance and a soil that is primarily based on biomass and healthy soil life, no matter what the original starting position was: heavy clay, poor sand, acidic forest soil, etc etc.

So the best news is: the less you do, the better it is for those nice expensive plants. But beware: sometimes the starting position of your land is so bad that it is better to first improve the soil with pioneer species and a fine hedge than to plant very expensive nut trees right away. In our training courses, you will learn much more about this, because succession and soil structure is perhaps the most important thing you need to understand to realise successful food forests.

If you keep track of the progress of your forest in our food forest monitoring tool, you will see it happen and together we will show it to the whole world.

What is best, starting on farmland or forest land?

For the soil itself, it does not matter. The start is really different in both species, but in both soil types you work towards a mature food forest. In terms of regulation, however, there are definitely major differences. In the Netherlands, nature is governed by very different legislation than agriculture. You can read more about this at Legislation and regulations.

Want to go more in depth with your food forest knowledge?

Check out our course offerings.